Someone online has said something critical. How do you respond? Here are some ideas.
by Emily Taylor
#Don’t be afraid of negative comments
There will always be people who are unhappy with something the Council/specific service area has done.
Negative comments don’t have to be a bad thing and shouldn’t be scary.
Sometimes a response and an acknowledgement of the message is enough to make people realise that 'the council' isn’t a faceless organisation.
Personalise your response by using the name of the person complaining.
Even if you don’t have the solution, acknowledge the comment and say you’ll find out.
If you do have the facts to hand, ensure that you respond factually.
Tone on social media is very important.
Social media demands a more informal approach.
A standard corporate response – the sort many of us might be used to making (formal letter, etc) – is not appropriate.
We should be responding in the same tone that people are speaking to us in.
#Sorry seems to be the hardest word
Sorry isn’t an admission of guilt.
A negative commenter is unlikely to expect an apology and sometimes that is enough to appease the situation and have a more measured conversation about the issue.
If you are apologising, ensure that you have a solution or tell the person that you will get a response from the right person (particularly the case for our corporate page as we get asked about a lot of very different things.)
#Let your community respond
Sometimes it is worth taking a breath and letting the community respond.
Maybe leave replying to a negative comment and you might be pleased to see that others in your community might respond for you.
#Take it off line
Not necessarily off line but off the public social media channel.
If the issue is complicated or needs more personal details try to move it into a more private communication, either through a private message or email.
For some people, a response will simply fuel the flames.
Some people simply enjoy causing a storm on social media and will continue to post negative comments.
You don’t need to get caught up in a long and negative exchange.
Respond once with the facts – politely – and then move on, if they insist on continuing to post negatively, ignore them.
This is particularly true on Twitter.
Remember that on Twitter, if someone sends a tweet to you that starts with @TelfordWrekin (or whatever your twitter handle is), only their followers that follow both them and you will see the tweet – often, many of these trolls will have very few followers in the first place – and far fewer that follow both of you.
We don’t have to have the last say
#To delete or not to delete
It can be tempting to delete a negative comment but in most cases, this is not helpful and will likely aggravate the situation.
Facebook will automatically hide any posts to your page that it deems to be inappropriate (usually with swear words or ***.)
We have a document on our Facebook page about 'How we use social media' which outlines what is and isn’t acceptable on our social media pages, this includes those occasions when we would remove a comment and we can refer people to this document if they question any deletion.
Those occasions when we would remove a post include:
• Any post messages that are unlawful, libellous, harassing, defamatory, abusive, threatening, harmful, obscene, profane, sexually oriented or racially offensive
• Instances where the same message, or very similar messages, are posted more than once ("spamming")
• The posting of personal information, such as contact details, either by a person themselves or by someone else
• An advertisement of products or services
• Any comments that may compromise the Council’s obligation to maintain political neutrality
#The last resort
In the case of inappropriate comments, a last resort is to block someone.
We have blocked less than a handful of people on Facebook – these have been persistent abusers of our guidelines concerning appropriate commenting.
#Talk about it
If in doubt, talk about it.
We all work in teams and have colleagues we can discuss issues on social media with – it might make it seem less scary or negative once you’ve had a chat.
If you’re still unsure, the Corporate Comms team is always on hand to help – call us or email us.
Emily is PR and communications officer at Telford & Wrekin Council.